Football rivalry continues to flourish

THE OHIO State Buckeyes have the longest win streak in the nation at 23 games, but that doesn’t mean a victory against arch-rival Michigan Saturday is a foregone conclusion.

If this doesn’t seem believable to the Buckeye faithful, they should be cognizant of what happened in 1969.

That’s when OSU had a squad that coach Woody Hayes called “the best team we ever put together, probably the best team that ever played college football.” Not only did the squad have a 9-0 record until the game with Michigan, but a season-ending loss to U-M halted the Buckeyes’ 22-game winning streak and its bid for a second-consecutive national title.

At the end of that famous game with its 24-12 score, Michigan fullback Garvie Craw referred to the win as “unbelievable … fantastic …the greatest victory in the history of the world.” Until that game, U-M had won seven games and lost two.

It also is credited with sparking the “The Ten Year War” between Hayes and U-M coach Bo Schembechler.

OSU head football coach Urban Meyer indicated Monday that he might use the ’69 game as a cautionary tale but added, “I might, but that’s usually later in the week. I might. But it’s always good to talk about the history of the rivalry. Our players know it, but we might do that.”

The rivalry continues to thrive with coaches and players on both sides fully aware of the importance of “The Game.”

Meyer reported the Buckeyes have had an extra day of preparation, and it feels different as the big day in Ann Arbor approaches.

“I’m not acting different, but it does feel different,” said the coach, who added the coaches and players appreciate that, too.

Referring to the players, Meyer said there is “an extra pep in the step.”

And the Wolverines don’t consider Saturday’s match-up as a lost cause. Winning could give U-M head coach Brady Hoke some job security as the team has lost four of its last six games.

As to the keys to winning Saturday, Hoke said, “I am very confident that we can win or we wouldn’t play. I’d call down there to Columbus and say that we won’t do it.” He did, however, say that OSU is probably the Wolverines’ biggest test thus far.

And Hoke like another Ohioan and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Roger Staubach realizes the importance of being consistent, and Hoke apparently has pounded that into the heads of the team. Staubach, a Cincinnati native who received the Heisman Trophy in 1963 and was enshrined in the HofF in 1985, once noted, “In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.”

“This game,” said Hoke, “has always been different in some ways. Are they a good football team? Yeah, they are a very good football team. Do we have to play better than we’ve played? I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and we’ve got to be more consistent and finish things better. It’s what makes it so much fun.”

Wolverine senior cornerback Courtney Avery said to beat the Buckeyes that the Wolverines “just have to be consistent. Consistent, and we have to finish. We have to have all three phases of the team at full effect doing their best on Saturday – offense, defense and special teams. Everybody’s just got to come out and give their best. And we have to have great preparation this week and come out and perform.”

Avery, a co-captain and three-year letterman, posted a career high eight tackles during the Northwestern game.

Taylor Lewan, U-M fifth year senior tackle, said to avoid negative plays, team members have to play “more consistent, taking what we do on the field and bringing it to the game. Guys just have to stay in the game, can’t focus on the big crowd, who is in the crowd, is there more red? It doesn’t matter. We are playing a football game.”

Lewan had been considered by many to be a high first-round selection in the 2013 first-round NFL draft but he opted to return to Michigan for his senior season. He’s only the ninth Michigan offensive lineman to be a starter for four seasons and is on several watch lists for major awards.

U-M wide receiver Jeremy Gallon is the 10th Michigan player to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, and he ranks second in the Big Ten in total offense. Michigan tight end Devin Funchess’ 686 receiving yards in 2013 is the most all-time by a U-M tight end in a single season.

In 1999, called the game between the two universities as the greatest rivalry of the 20th century.

Although Michigan leads the all-time series 58-44-6, OSU has been the victor – officially – in nine of the last 11 meetings.. The 2010 win was vacated.

Let’s hope the Buckeyes earlier this week adhered to the words of legendary coach Hayes when he said, “The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win.”

Woody also had his own theory about the noteworthy game. He once commented, “How did our great rivalry get started? Well, the real fight started back in 1836 when Andrew Jackson, that wily old cuss, took Toldeo away from that state up north and gave it to us.”

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